What do we promote at Survival School Bristol?
At Survival School Bristol we like to take a holistic approach to bushcraft and wilderness skills, and we like to try and look beyond the basics. Of course everyone must start with the basics such as fire, shelter, water and cutting tool safety and techniques, but on the face of it those are very much the basics of survival, once those have been studied and practised it opens up a whole world of exploration and discovery for the bushcraft enthusiast. As part of our holistic approach we like to look at the wilderness or woodland eco systems as a whole and promote the idea of environmental stewardship.
We like to promote best practise and educate everyone on the countryside code and environmental management practices and conservation. We use foraging to look at plant and tree life cycles including transpiration and photosynthesis, studying chemicals within plants to find out which ones are poisonous and why, which ones are edible and which medicinal ones can be used to fix us or make us better. Water cycles and river studies help us think about where and when to find water, predict the weather, make camp and find food. Animal life cycles and food chains to look at where and when to find different species for the purposes of tracking then hunting or trapping them, the current laws for what species you can hunt, and what approved methods and humane dispatch techniques can be used. This then leads into game preparation sessions, whether it be fish, bird or mammal, which can help educate on where our food comes from, how it is dispatched, how to identify signs of disease, how to butcher an animal and extract the useful protein and nutrients, the biological make up of animals, and overall provide a hands on experience which helps people relate with the meat they purchase in the shops, which then in turn helps them understand why issues of animal welfare in the rearing process are so important. Hunting and trapping techniques get us to think about physics, whether it be stored potential energy in a bow, or using gravity in a deadfall trap, the same for which can be said for fire because if we understand the science behind fire we are better informed to look at why something isn't working, question it, and modify the situation for success, this can be true from creating a spark, right up to using the traditional bow drill to create an ember (rubbing two sticks together!).
The list becomes endless when you start to consider, natural navigation, natural cordage, why water is so important, making primitive weapons, making primitive tools such as knives and axes, spoon carving, bowl carving, digging sticks, cooking equipment, fishing equipment, skin and hide tanning, using domesticated animals to hunt, building permanent shelters, the list goes on.
You then need to consider the more traditional craft based side of bushcraft, weaving for basket and trap making, decorative carving, primitive artwork, weaving for making cloth, clothing and shoe manufacture, leather working, traditional fencing, green wooding to make furniture and other items of treen, the specialist tools associated with these all these crafts, woodland management in the form of coppicing, hedge laying and other activities, smelting ores to extract metals, casting in bronze, forging iron to make tools, charcoal burning for use in forging and a means of more efficiently heating a shelter without the masses of smoke, and again the list goes on.
As you can see the idea of bushcraft is interlinked with every conceivable aspect of wilderness living and personally providing for your every need, whilst also maintaining the resources at your fingertips. Our role is to provide the right information from the start but also to enthuses and enlighten people so that they realise that there is much more to be learnt beyond the basics, but then also to provide provision for people to be able to come back and study any one or a number of these topics to satisfy their own curiosities and interests. We strive to be all inclusive to people of all ages and backgrounds, and whether they are new to bushcraft and just starting out on their journey, or have been practising for many years and would like to learn something new, our fundamental goal is always quality not quantity.
Individually we do not class each other as bushcraft 'experts' due to the fact that the term expert implies someone that has acquired and mastered all of the skills within a subject, and as we can see from the list of topics contained within bushcraft it would take several lifetimes to become a true expert in all of them. Of course, someone can become an expert in one particular aspect of
bushcraft, which is why we use a team of instructors that have come from different walks of life and have different specialisms, so that we maintain an extremely high level of instructor knowledge throughout. It always amazes me that after years of instructing you can still learn something new every time you go out into the woods, whether it be a nugget of information that a student provides, or something another instructor has discovered, and more often than not it is something that happens during the course of a session which makes you think about doing or trying something in a different way. Therefore we like to keep our sessions very fluid and dynamic, and although we have a lesson plan to follow we are not adverse to receiving a question from a student which leads to us chucking the rule book out of the window and marching off into the woods to look for or try something new. Bushcraft is very much a journey of discovery and we like to let learners lead the route that any particular session takes, we believe that a question left unanswered means that we are not doing our job as teachers and mentors properly.
Matt was an excellent instructor who led the group well throughout the day with consideration to the pace of the learning and what we actually did. He is a very personable sort of guy who quickly established a warm rapport with us and without doubt was extremely knowledgable about his subject which he taught with confidence and passion. He even had to contend with a biblical style downpour right in the middle of the day! He took it all in his stride and continued to motivate and interest us with a wide scope of topics that I had given him for the group to get stuck into. I will definitely recommend him to others and will try and organise another day with him later in the year.